1. The Cavaliers rested LeBron James against the Clippers on Saturday (and also sat Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love).
2. NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to teams threatening to crack down on how they rest players.
How related are those events?
LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
“I love what Adam is doing for our league but I don’t see how that (would help),” James said Tuesday. “I don’t understand why it’s become a problem now, because I sit out a couple games?”
When a reporter suggested to James that Silver’s reasons for sending the memo may stretch beyond his not playing in Cleveland’s 30-point loss in a national TV game Saturday, James disagreed.
“That is the case. It’s absolutely the case,” James insisted.
And when it was mentioned that the week before, in a game that, like the Cavs’ loss to the Clippers was televised on ABC, Warriors coach Steve Kerr sat Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala from a game against the Spurs, James said: “Come on, man. You guys know the real.”
“Listen, Pop’s been doing this for 10 years, 12 years, 15 years and everybody was like, ‘You know what? That’s the smartest thing Pop has ever done,” James said. “Give his guys a couple games off and here they go and win five championships. That’s the smartest thing.’
But some of our coaches in our league don’t have the stature that Pop has and our head coach doesn’t have it so he gets killed for it. So, I got to keep winning to help my coach be able to have a reason why he can sit his players.”
Gregg Popovich resting players got the Spurs fined $250,000 in 2012. The San Antonio coach certainly hasn’t drawn universal lauding for his resting strategy.
This remains a contentious issue, and the battle lines aren’t drawn around LeBron – at least not as much as he suggests here.
The same people who praise Popovich for resting players supported Tyronn Lue (and Steve Kerr and every other coach who has rested players). The same people upset about LeBron resting were also bothered by Popovich resting players. LeBron is comparing two disparate sets of observers.
That said, there is a difference with LeBron involved.
This hasn’t taken on an enhanced profile because other coach’s lack Popovich’s stature. It’s because LeBron is such a big star.
LeBron attracts attention unlike any Spur, and when he sits, ratings suffer. The league’s TV partners dislike teams resting players, and those companies are paying enough to have their voices heard. LeBron – the NBA’s highest-profile star since Michael Jordan – resting adds urgency, but this issue has been percolating for years.
This didn’t suddenly become a problem because of LeBron. He was just the spark that turned an occasional issue into one that suddenly feels much more pressing.